Cady Finlayson,
Irish Coffee
(self-produced, 2007)

Cady Finlayson plays a crisp fiddle, clean and precise and oh-so rich in tone. She plays with a casual confidence, and her music lights up a room when it's playing.

Irish Coffee is brimming with good tunes that are solidly arranged for Cady's backing band: Elkin Brown on guitar, John Redmond on accordion, Jim Roberts on percussion, Danny McLaughlin on uilleann pipes, Michael J. Nelson on keyboard, Tim Alworth on bodhran and Cynthia Wyatt on harp. Cady's fiddle leads the way, but she knows when to share the spotlight or even step aside and let someone else shine. Her gift for arranging music, as I mentioned in a review of her 2002 album Shines Like Silver, is as remarkable as her fiddling.

With 19 tracks, there's plenty of variety -- fast and slow, simple and elaborate, traditional tunes and original compositions. Cady's original pieces, it must be noted, blend seamlessly into the traditional fare.

Cady's fiddle is at its lyrical best on the gentle medley "Shenandoah/Minstrel Boy," two often-played tunes that get brilliant new life at her hands. She radiates sprightly vigor on her own "Brooklyn March," and she gracefully ornaments the fast-paced traditional "Jig of Slurs/The Athole Highlanders" and races artfully through "Tuttle/Caislean an Oir."

Brown gives "Ships are Sailing" a phenomenal start on guitar that could easily carry the tune on its own; it's a testament to Cady that the track only gets better when she jumps in. McLaughlin shines on the pipes on "A Midwinter Waltz," and again the music is even better when the pipes wed the fiddle in a service led by Nelson's keyboard. Redmond takes his turn fronting the band on accordion on a spirited "Sporting Paddy," while Roberts puncuates "Dunmore Lasses" with stark but hard to ignore decisiveness. Wyatt makes only two appearances on the CD, but the harp-and-fiddle duet on "Edgefauld House" sings sweetly.

In short, Cady plays extremely well with others. At the same time, it must be noted that Cady has the skills that would easily allow her to keep the focus always on her, if she chose.

A little online browsing shows plenty of praise for Cady's music, not only in the Celtic media but in new age circles as well. This surprises me; although there have been plenty of overlaps between the two genres over the years, this doesn't fall into that nebulous void. Irish Coffee is a straight-up traditional album boasting excellent musicianship all around; it never fades into the background, nor does it rely on synthesizers or songs of the humpback whale to spice it up. (I admit, that's a fairly narrow -- and somewhat unfair -- description of new age music, but even so, Irish Coffee doesn't fit the bill. Maybe it's because of Roberts' rainstick on track one....)

Cady Finlayson rocks the party, and then some. She plays with both head and heart, and the music she makes is a glowing example of good Celtic fiddling. Check her out, and soon.

[ visit the artist's website ]

review by
Tom Knapp

22 September 2007

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